Illinois landlord quotes higher rents to African Americans; pays $45,000 to HOPE Fair Housing

The HOPE Fair Housing Center settled a federal racial discrimination lawsuit against a Steger, Illinois landlord for $45,000. The Defendants also agreed to extensive fair housing training, monitoring by the Center, and affirmative marketing to counteract the effects of past racial discrimination.

Nicholas Broches is the builder and developer of several townhome-style rental units Chicago’s southern suburbs. In June 2002, as part of its housing referral program, the HOPE Fair Housing Center responded to an ad placed by Broches indicating that he allowed Section 8 tenants to rent his properties. During a phone conversation, Broches asked a HOPE employee what her “nationality” was. When the employee responded that she was white,Broches indicated that he would be willing to work with her.

Seven discrimination tests showed African Americans treated differently than whites

Armed with the information that Broches preferred white tenants, HOPE launched an  investigation. According to court documents, during the course of the investigation, HOPE was contacted by an African American homeseeker who explained that she had tried several times to make an appointment to rent one of Broches’ units, but that he had refused to meet with her. HOPE intensified its investigation and performed seven paired tests for racial discrimination on Broches.

In each test, African Americans were quoted higher monthly rents than white testers. In two of the tests, Broches offered to give the white testers a discounted rent when they said they had decided not to rent from him. African American testers also had a tougher time setting appointments with Broches. Many times, he put African Americans off or told them to call back at a later date. With white testers, Broches typically set appointments during their initial contact and at times convenient to them.

Landlord wanted “good (white) people”

During the testing process, Broches repeatedly made comments to white testers that he was looking for “good people” to rent his homes. He made no such comments to the African American testers. Broches also tried to impose different terms and conditions on African American renters. He told one African American tester that she would need to make a deposit equal to two months rent and pay one month’s rent upfront. He told similarly situated white testers that he didn’t even need for them to fill out applications or submit to a credit check.

Finally, HOPE’s investigation revealed that Broches almost always followed up with white testers and encouraged them to rent his available units but never returned phone calls to African Americans. He often led African Americans to believe that someone else was
preparing to make a deposit and that it might be fruitless for them to even look at the unit.

Based on its testing information and investigation, HOPE filed a federal lawsuit on the agency’s behalf. Two of HOPE’s testers were also named Plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Although Broches would not admit that he discriminated against African Americans. He acknowledged that HOPE’s evidence was extremely strong and that he would likely lose if the case proceeded to trial.

HOPE Fair Housing Center v. Broches
Case No. 02-C-5314 (N.D. Ill.)
The Honorable John F. Grady, U.S. District Judge
Jeffrey L. Taren, attorney for Plaintiffs
Federal complaint filed: July 26, 2002
Consent Order: February 10, 2003